Normalising equality

There’s an article on the BBC website today which reminds us of the time – just 45 years ago – when women needed a man’s signature in order to get a loan or buy something on a hire purchase agreement.

Read: The British women who couldn’t hire a sofa without their husbands’ signature

Up until the introduction of the Sex Discrimination Act of 1975 husbands or fathers were required to act as guarantors on applications for credit cards, memberships or buy-now-pay-later purchases.

Despite this, and many other barriers to equality, by 1975 Mary Gillham had become a PhD (1950), spent a year at Massey University in New Zealand (1957), around four years in the University of Melbourne (1958 – 1961), been one of the first four women to enter the Antarctic region (1959) and been awarded a lectureship at Cardiff University in 1961.

Mary graduating and just before setting off to Macquarie island (picture from the Museum Victoria collection).

Her travels didn’t stop there, however! Between 1961 and 1975 Mary visited East Africa, Aldabra and Cosmoledo, Scotland, the Channel Islands and the former Yugoslavia as well as innumerable places in Wales. Sprinkled between travels and teaching Mary had also managed to publish over 40 journal articles and three books by the time of the introduction of the Sex Discrimination Act. This is an achievement by any standards!

Here at the Mary Gillham Archive Project we are working to commemorate the life of this pioneering woman. We are digitising her extensive body of work to make it widely accessible today and also shining a light on the important role she played in both wildlife conservation and in opening doors for women.

Find out more about our project at, @GillhamArchives and Flickr.

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